Saturday, December 12, 2015

A pocket pirate and back to the chateau

11 December 2015

4 rising to 14 degrees - sunny

Almost all of the leaves are down from the trees now and the sunlight flickered on my windscreen and striped the road as, yet again, I went to show the big chateau with the massive amounts of work.  Like the Madonna with the Big Boobies from 'Allo Allo', it fascinates but no one wants to take (or call it) home.  

The tree in the central square had been erected and one group of men were trying to straighten it up whilst, simultaneously, another group were spraying it silver.  Lots of abuse was being shouted and quite a few members of the team had become prematurely shiny.  A mini fairground had been set up, consisting of covered over marquees and a dodgem ride, the cars all lined up at one end, ready for the start of racing.  I do love dodgems.  No need for restraint.  You can drive into as many people as you like, shout and shriek and generally be a menace.  Strangely, the French become quite restrained behind the wheel of a dodgem.  It is on the roads where you have to watch out of them.  Grabbed a quick coffee and the bar owner asked me if I would be interested in taking on a flat in a ski resort to the south east of where we were sitting.  I gave him the name of a colleague and my phone rang and it was the client.

He was swarthy skinned and wild haired and would have made an ideal pocket Pirate.  Also far shyer and more pleasant than he had come across by email.  We bowled off into the bright late morning sunshine and the owner was waiting for us.  Both the owner and the client work in building so I let the owner do the visit and listened carefully for information and also new vocabulary.  The owner showed a loft area that he had never shown before and also told the client about two areas of the house which had been closed off by his parents and were no longer accessible.  The client took lots of photos and wandered off into the grounds so I had a chat with the owner in the dining room.  He was setting out his collection of brass candle sticks on the tall mantelpiece and drinking a cup of coffee.  He didn't offer me one.  The only source of heat in the house comes from an ancient Godin wood burning stove.  He had been burning sticks covered in moss and lichen which had fallen from the trees and the room was full of fine filigree smoke which danced in the sunlight slanting in through the patio windows.  He said if the house didn't sell, he would buy it himself and renovate it.  I do hope not - especially after all the effort I have put in to sell the bloody thing. Also, the renovation he has done includes ripping up original oak flooring and putting down pine.  Not sympathetic to the building, the foundations of which are 15th century.

The client finally reappeared and we got in the cars and back to town and had a quick drink and I ran him through the French buying process.  The large Christmas tree was now dripping in baubles and large gift wrapped packages.  Was surprised to see how low the sun was in the sky and, unbelievably, it was nearly 4 pm.  Back home to find OH had offered low offer on house in Windermere which has been on sale for the enormous time span of four months.  Hopefully Mrs Noddi will go and have a look at it for us.  However Cumbria is currently under water and she said she is having problems getting out of her drive in the normal car so we will have to wait.

Slapped some more resin on my ginkgo leaves.  The whole flower pendants are still looking thin and sticky.  I am going to have to tell the lady that it is just not going to be ready for Christmas.  Delighted to find I have a button order for lots of buttons!!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Visits, offers and the last Last Kingdom of the year

Thursday 10 December 2015

Sunny and chilly with thick mist early morning

4 rising to 15 degrees

Mist lay thick on the ground this morning, like cotton wool insulation over the earth. The trees were dark masses in the early dawn light.  Ten days until we go to the UK, see the boys and the family and the madness of a UK Christmas.  Ten days to get all my resin stuff sold online?  Must, must finish off the whole flower pendant.  Must also do photos and post my sparkly buttons.

Did a quick update with OH who declared that today was the day he would start looking for buy to let property areas.  The morning disappeared before I managed to get down to the market so it was down to the mountains instead for a property viewing.  

Listened to Michel Thomas Spanish Language CD 6.  Imperative is a real pain.  He introduced lots of new verbs at the same time and my head was pounding by the time I arrived in the town.

The couple were on time.  English.  Very reserved and delicate handshakes.  We went into a bar for a coffee and I showed them the local area on the Tablette and discussed what the area had to offer.  Took some time to break through their reserve and eventually, on the subject of gardening, found their enthusiasm and they started to smile and look relaxed.   They currently live SW of Bordeaux and are looking to downsize.

The house was looking lovely and the sun was sparkling on the slate roof.  Decoration in the house is in very muted tones of clerical and dove grey and cream; lots of hearts and toile de jouy and beautiful lined curtains on ornate metal rails.  I love it but it is very small.  The garden is sizable and has a large gravel area for parking and two small barns.  The couple seemed quite taken with it and went off to see other properties in areas which I hoped they would not like as much.

Back to my town to help the English couple who are still having phone problems.  Spent an hour on the phone to SFR, plugging and unplugging various parts of the system and spiking the reset button with a bent hair clip, before they finally cracked and said they would have to send out a technician.  Sat and had a cup of tea in their shiny red high backed kitchen chairs amongst the chaos of Christmas cards half written.  Apparently it had been easier to get a visa for the lady's aunt from Harare than it had been to get a working telephone connection.

Back home and wolfed down salmon sandwich and two nectarines.  Weight loss campaign is not going well and am still over 57 kilos.  How annoying!!!  Had got down to 55.  The phone rang and it was the local bar owners who wanted to revisit the large stone village house with barn.

They were late and the sun was sinking behind the far trees and the house was absolutely freezing.  They arrived with their daughter and poked around for half an hour before saying they would think about it.  I asked if they had seen any other properties and they said they had just missed out on one by offering too low.  I had a very bad feeling that I was about to suffer the same experience as the other agent and indeed it was the case as they made an offer of 90k on a house which is currently up for 170k.  Drove home, fuming, in the fading light.  Had trouble seeing where I was going.  Eyesight terrible at night.

OH had made lovely dinner of roast chicken and roasted vegetables.  Crisp white wine. Noticed he had been looking at properties in Ulverston in Cumbria.  He said that he was now thinking of buying a buy to let holiday home in a popular area.  Watched a TV programme called a Year on Scafell Pike.  I don't want to go back to the mountains, their looming masses and crags and sheep and grass and the incessant rain.  They oppress me. They close in the horizon.  Their mass sucks in energy.  Here, we can see the landscape, undulating and unimpeded; we see clouds and the coming weather, stunning sunsets, flocks of birds and solitary circling raptors.  

Watched the final episode of the Last Kingdom.  Iseult and Leofritch did not survive but Utred did and was heading north for blood feuds and a further series next year.  Cant wait!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thoughts on falling leaves and catching buyers

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Sunny but cold 10 degrees

Got cabin fever and OH was in the throes of sorting out paperwork so took the dog for a walk on the railway track.  Very few people around for dog to greet and only several bikers for him to jump in front of at the last moment.

I told myself that each falling leaf I caught would represent a house sold before the end of the year.  Have you ever tried catching falling oak leaves?  They whizz away from you at the last minute.  I would see ahead, shoals of them falling and run towards them, only to find that the brief period of drop had passed.  Eventually I caught a little one.

I felt the leaves were symbolic of life as an estate agent.  The trees are full of buyers ripe for the picking, but being in the right place in the right time takes luck and good timing and a propitious gust of wind.  Everywhere I could see them falling but even when I was in the right place, they whizzed away and out of my grasp.

Got home and felt depressed.  Had snooze on sofa and made supper of roast chicken and roast potatoes with my efforts at gravy.  My mother and aunts made wonderful gravy but alas it is still beyond me.

Watched the latest episode of the Apprentice where two teams - brass and charmless opposite slimy and authentic, still managed to sell four million pounds worth of property in London in just one day.  100 000 pounds worth of commission.

Felt really fed up then and went to bed.  I am definitely not in the right place and never is actually the right time for my part of the world.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Looking back to a Summer gone...

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Sunny morning with rain later

Didnt do anything of note today, so looked for something I wrote a while ago, and came up with this.  It seems I still was in love with the idea of France back then.

The South West of France, and particularly my little corner, is colourful at any time of year. It is in Summer however when the fireworks start (literally). The South West is famous for its ‘fetes’. Unlike a damp English carnival, they last for days – usually incorporating a large weekend (Friday to Sunday) and including much music, dancing, eating and drinking.
The French are nothing if not practical and are also very law observing. It is an offence to be in a state of manifest drunkenness in the streets. This law is suspended locally during the fetes period (otherwise from the Mairie down to the local mice, everyone would be in trouble). It is an offence to drive whilst drunk. ‘Centres de Repos’ are set up so people can go and sleep it off. These normally contain heaps of red and white men lying haphazardly and snoring horrifically… Why red and white? Because that is the colour of fetes – white trousers and shirts, black kepi, red neckerchief and cummerbund.
The local fetes are ‘animated’ by Bandas. Bandas are a particularly south western phenomenon. Each town has its own Banda with a mixture of old and young players. There is a drummer and a leader and the rest are made up of brass instruments. The tunes that they play are very traditional – including Roll out the Barrel – which is enthusiastically taken up by everyone within roaring distance. To my ear, it sounds like they are all playing a slightly different tune. It is a sound which is at the same time raucous and cacophonic and joyful. It is the sound of the summer in the South West.
The first night of the fete usually includes music – awnings and stages are set up. There is a live group (once the most marvellous Flamenco singers and dancers) this is the bit me and husband see. The older and more sensible people go home around midnight and leave the younger element to dance to the ‘Bal’ which is a open air disco.
One particularly vivid memory is when I was trying to find my kids in a crush of French kids in front of the Bal stage. They were quite young at the time and we wanted to extract them to sort out how they were getting home. I am not very tall and I waded into the wall of bodies. Sweat, beer, wine, deodorant, cheap perfume, spit. They were having a marvellous time….
The day after, the town resembles a disaster zone and the local services spend most of the morning cleaning up. There is usually kids entertainment in the afternoons, including juggling, circus skills, fairground. All very sedate. Early evening, the previous night’s revellers emerge and do it all again…
Sunday we have the ‘vide grenier’ and people sell a vast variety of objects for surprisingly high prices. When the stalls are gone, long trestle tables are set up and often up to 300 people eat together. Many people have lived all of their lives in Salies and there is ‘relation familial’ which I fear we will never again have in our Green and Pleasant Land. In the evening is something musical but more on the cultural lines (see Flamenco). A good time is had by all. Much duck is consumed. Mountains of chips are washed down with litres of wine.
When France were playing against England in the national stadium, we were back in England and we watched on telly. Suddenly amongst the cheering and the noise, a tune was struck up. A tune that is played at all our local fetes and we were instantly transported back to the night, the heat, the singing and laughing and non stop talking, the tables laden with confit, chips and wine. That is the thing about France, it enters deep into your heart, and no matter where you are, or what you are doing, it only takes a tune to take you back to a moment, a meal, and a memory.

Not quite Downton Abbey

Monday 7 December 2015

Bright and sunny
1 degree rising to 17

Set off with great excitement to meet my colleague and see huge chateau.  For the price tag of six million, I was expecting something really special.  We grabbed a quick coffee and found the place on Google Maps and then set off.  It was fortunate, in retrospect, that we took the opportunity for refreshment.

The chateau was imposing, sitting at the end of a long banked up driveway, its black slate towered roof sparkling against the backdrop of the snowy mountains.  It all felt rather Downton Abbey.  I felt as if we should be in a coach and four rather than a Mercedes.  The owner was cranking open the metal shutters when we arrived in the courtyard, and was glued to his phone.  We walked around and, up close, you could see that the roof had been patched, the new slate considerably darker than the pale, older tiles.  

We were welcomed into the great entrance hall with its wraparound galleried landing and spectacular 20 feet high stained glass window.  The most beautiful concrete tiles under our feet.  Into the drawing room and my colleague did the introduction and I looked around the room.  The classic problem with chateau owners is that they have chateau owners costs without chateau owners income.  The walls were lined with silk fabric but it was faded and tattered in places.  The marble above the fireplace was stained and an ancestor looked down in disapproval.  A cat was raking hell out of a delicate silk chair.

The owner, one of three siblings, told us at length about how much he thought the house was worth.  He then went onto describe the agricultural activities on which the 300 hectare estate earned its living.  An hour went by.  I was sitting in the sun and the urge to doze was strong.  The cat took to spiking my legs.  The owner banged on about cereal production. There is no one like an organic farmer for being passionate about his product.  When his phone rang, at the end of an hour and a half when we had still not made it out of the drawing room, I hissed at my colleague to speed it up or we would never be done in daylight.

We set off around the house.  Downstairs was impressive but things started going awry by the first floor.  The original wiring was silk cord and there had been a fire.  The electrician had dug out a channel to replace the wiring and had re plastered in glaringly white plaster. It snaked in an ugly fashion over the wall next to the galleried landing.  Most of the twenty bedrooms were narrow with only five being presentable.  The bathrooms were old fashioned.  We went up to the top floor and the bedrooms became even narrower, turn of the 20th century electrics, and plaster falling like dandruff from the ceilings.  I have yet to go in a chateau where the ceilings aren't flaking.

The kitchen, which had yet to emerge from the 19th century, was in the lower ground floor and boasted a magnificent range which was covered in rust.  There were stockrooms and storerooms and a room full of concrete washing bays where all of the household laundry would have been done.

Then onto the outbuildings - 20 horseboxes, stable boys accommodation, managers house and guardians house and gardeners accommodation.  There must have been far more staff than family.  The horse boxes were piled up with the grain produced by the estate.  It would not be difficult for vermin to get into it.

By this time, we had been there nearly three hours and nothing had been actually measured so, when the owner suggesting driving around the 300 hectares, I grabbed my book and pen and said I would measure up.  Can you imagine trying to keep track of which rooms you had done in a house with as many corridors as a maze?  I devised rapidly a system of leaving on the light in the room I had noted and then, when all the lights were on, switching them all off and going to the next floor.  The floors were very slippy and the hall carpet was like the luge.

My colleague and the owner came back eventually and it was 3 pm and he hadn't even so much as offered us a glass of water.  We managed to escape and had steak frites in a local bar.  I said I was very disappointed in the property, especially as it transpired that the actual machinery and business was owned by separate companies and were not included in the price required.  The land value was double actual local values.  I thought more like 3.5 million.  The electricity was botched, the roof was patched and the whole place needs replastering.  No proper kitchen and all the bathrooms ancient.  Not impressed.

Back home and felt knackered.  Had to peel many prawns and ring up suspects.  Watched penultimate episode of the Last Kingdom.  That was rather disappointing too.

Sparkle time...

Sunday 6 December 2015

Cold and sunny 16 degrees

The phone rang at 11.30 and it was a colleague, asking if I wanted to go tomorrow and help him to bring to market a chateau in a city near the mountains.  Estimated at 6 million euros...  He sent me some pictures and it looked imposing, high on a ridge with the mountains icy on the horizon.  A stunning grand entrance.  I said yes.

Spent the rest of the day cleaning and making some more sparkly resin buttons.  The whole flower pendant is just taking for ever to dry.  May stick some varnish on it and then resin over the top.  Put all the recalcitrant sticky leaves on a tray in the living room where they can enjoy some heat.  Icy cold in the craft room.
bleached gingko leaves

glittered gingko leaves

glittered skeleton hydrangea leaves

whole flower pendant looking horrible

closeup sparkly stuff

sparkly buttons

glitter supplies

prism paint buttons

experimentations with bangles.  Need better photography

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Wonderful nativity and gingkos

Saturday 5 December 2015

12 degrees thick mist with sun later

The cupboard is bare so we go shopping and enjoy a nativity scene and the stunning ancient gingkos - their acid yellow heightened by the deep blue skies.
Wonderful ginkgo trees
Los treis reyes
Arrival of the shepherds
Shepherds and Archangel Michael
Something sparkly
Lots of bling
Mary and Joseph arrive at the Inn
Progress of the shepherds
Nativity mêlée

I dont know why I bother...

Friday 4 December 2015

Sunny  12 degrees

Spent morning working way through my work list and OH looked for jobs for RJ.  Very cold in the house and he put on the calor gas fire which is very fumy and gave us a headache. The fan on the electric heater has stopped working and dog blocked what little heat there was coming out of it.  He was not keen on going out in the cold but wanted amusement so spent the morning wandering in and out of rooms, looking for some warmth.  He finally settled on a patch in the sun on the front room mat, but not until I had had to get up and close the various doors, many times.

The phone didnt ring.  I had been expecting a call from the Australians about the chateau so finally cracked at about midday and rang.  No answer.  Ten minutes later got an email to say their phone was 'out of charge'.  The email had been sent from their phone...  and they had decided to go ahead on a different property.  Also got an email from the English couple saying they wouldn't be revisiting the house they had 'loved' when they came back in a fortnight, but would 'hold off' until next year.  I don't know why I bother.  I could have stayed at home, not used up litres of fuel, and done something I enjoyed. Was really fed up.  We both took the dog up the lane.

Found the following, from 8 November 1997

I am almost wrecked at the end of a fortnight of mad old women.  OH mum came last Tuesday through til Saturday as it was our 11th wedding anniversary on the previous Saturday.  Went to see Measure for Measure at Buxton and I had to wear a black wrap over skirt as nothing else fitted.  Up to 9 stone five.  Will I ever see 8 stone again?  The photos from the Cornwall holiday came back.  I am wearing a bikini in one of them and RJ is wobbling my stomach and smiling evilly.  

Last Sunday was RJ 8th birthday - bought him roller blades and he was thrilled and promptly started carving up my carpets with them.  Mum and Dad came over for a few days. He and WF are currently fighting in the front room, as to who has the next turn.  Have closed the door so I cant hear them.  C and D (brother and sister in law) came on Sunday and their kids mashed food into the newly created channels in the carpet.  C sat on the newly pinned and cut out dining room curtains and went around clutching his nether regions and saying 'I have pins in my arse'.  Kids kept tittering.  Had fireworks which weren't a great success as it was damp.  Was very amused when mum said to D that hadn't she put on some weight recently?  D has just lost about a stone.  Mum as subtle as ever.  Mum insisted on having a trip to the doctors in Chapel.  The one at home has refused to give her any more antibiotics and she loves a new audience.  She went on and on about her sinuses until Thursday when we went to Stockport to see the shops.  Shops seem far more effective than antibiotics.  Went back to trying to play the organ.  The creaking in my head as I try to do different things with each hand almost drowns out the racket of mum and dad both talking to me at the same time, the dog barking to go out and the kids incessant fighting.